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Anderson: Historical tourism is "a card that hasn't been played yet"

Brian Garner
January 6, 2015

The News & Reporter

The planned Chesterville 1865 event that is being coordinated by the Chester County Historical Society has two purposes; to highlight and commemorate the place all races in the community had in the history of the Civil War around Chester and to show the possibilities of how the area can take advantage of historical tourism as a means to draw visitors to the area.

Historical tourism, says Historical Society Museum Administrator Liz Anderson, is “one of the cards (in attracting visitors to the area) that hasn't really been played here in Chester.”

The board of the Historical Society felt if anyone could be a driving force behind historical tourism, they could be the ones, said Anderson, “or at least, we should definitely have a seat at the table.”

The Chesterville 1865 event is geared toward developing not only the interest in the War Between the States and what happened here in Chester, but historical tourism within the county also, said Anderson.

“Those are the things that build your community.”

The Chester area has a strong history and a lot of still-existing buildings that can be assets when developing historical tourism, Anderson said. In other words, the area has good bones and an enduring history.

“We have so many buildings standing here now that were standing there then. Chester was one of those places during those days where the three races really came together and coexisted. We had some of the earliest rail lines leading in here, the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road went over the top of the hill. All roads led to Chester. Chester played a fairly important supporting role in the War Between the States – there was an armory and four hospitals, a prison and the railroads,” she said.

Chester also has four existing original 10 lb. Parrott Rifles, (one of which, the Chester Gun, can still be fired and has been, ceremoniously several times). When it comes to historical tourism, the Chester Gun is a definite asset, said Anderson.

“We want to use the gun to promote Chester County, and historical tourism in Chester County,” she said.

The Chesterville 1865 event is the beginning of a plan to build a base on historical tourism activities in the district, said Anderson.

“Chester is the center of the Olde English District. There's not reason people would drive past here other than they never hear of anything to do here. Our history is sometimes overshadowed by wealthier counties that have the money to advertise. We're hoping this event will bring people to Chester and give everyone in Chester a chance to shine and put their best food forward. We have some of the best food grown here, we have good restaurants, we have beautiful bed and breakfast establishments. What we don't have is the money. We have to do the Chesterville 1865 event with a lot of volunteer help and on a shoestring budget, but we have the history.

“Chester has a better and more significant history than many of the the surrounding counties; some of the earliest settlements were here, and you can't beat about 10,000 years of people coming right through the center of the county, right over the top of the hill,” she said.

“Chester was a place where three continents collided, and in a significant and profound way. They played a supporting role in all the major events of history, whether it was shipping men off during WWI, or 38 patriots lying in a ditch at Beckhamville, waiting for the British to come by.

“That significance should be a driving force behind our historic tourism. We have the sites. Everyone just needs to get behind promoting us,” Anderson said.

“I know we can do it with just a little cooperation. I know Chester can do it – I have faith in Chester. We could be the Charleston of the Midlands.”

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